Sunday, May 20, 2018

Emma LeDoux - The Black Widow of Amador County (Part Three)

"At the morgue McVicar’s brother, J.E. McVicar, had arrived from Cripple Creek, Colorado, to identify the body. During an interview with the press he was quoted stating, “Yes, that is my brother Albert. This will almost kill our poor old mother. She is now nearly 70 years of age and I fear greatly the result of the shock upon her.” 

He also went on to say, “Somehow I thought something was the matter with Al.  Up to two years ago we kept up a fairly regular correspondence. Then he stopped writing. My mother and other members of the family had the same experience and for long periods at a time we did not know where he was located.

Albert was a first-rate man, unless he went downhill rapidly in the last few years. What kind of woman is this alleged wife? She must be a regular tigress. I could hardly believe my eyes when I read of the tragedy in a Cripple Creek paper. The name caught my eye and I feared the worst from the first. I telegraphed at once to your Chief of Police, but it was nearly a day and night before I received a reply. I have never seen the woman. We learned that he had married her in Arizona, but we never got much information about her further than once or twice he mentioned having married a ‘nice woman’. ”—-San Francisco Call, April 1, 1906

During the autopsy of McVicar's body, Dr. S.E. Latta and Dr. Hall claimed there was no signs of carbolic acid in his system at all, which contradicted what Emma had told the authorities.  It was also stated that it was unlikely that he had been poisoned to death, and that they believed the blows to his head which caused a "congestion of the inner lining of the skull"  brought on certain death. The doctor also went on to add that there was no sign of a struggle and that had he been poisoned with carbolic acid, that he would not have become completely incapacitated so quickly.

The doctors claimed that the body showed five contusions on his scalp and a blood clot fell from his nose as they were moving the deceased's body back on the slab in order to examine him further. Dr. Latta later testified that the clot from the nose and the five contusions  were caused prior to death.   You see, When McVicar’s nose was struck, during the course of being forced into the trunk, it caused a perimortem fracture. The newspapers even claimed that during the embalming process, the fluid “worked its way through the drained arteries and ebbed from the nostril.”   This meant that he was not dead when he was forced in the trunk.

The autopsy also showed that there was morphine in his system and trace amounts of choral hydrate.  But was it enough to kill him? One theory presented was that it was McVicar who was really addicted to the morphine acquired by Emma's doctor in San Francisco two weeks before. That McVicar took the morphine voluntarily and that while drunk, he overdosed on the morphine and died.

Testimony later given by Dr. Freiman of Sutter Creek stated that Emma was the one who had the morphine problems and that it all began in 1905. That was when she was first prescribed morphine for her ailment. Allegedly, during that time Emma had been suffering from problems with her uterus and ovaries which was the start of her need for morphine.

The trial of Emma LeDoux became one of the biggest news stories of the decade. Every paper in every town wanted day to day updates in the trial and gossip of key players in the story. The press had judged and convicted LeDoux in the court of public opinion long before the trial itself was even over. Over the course of several weeks the press continued to pump out more and more information, while the public ate it up.

During the trial, defense attorney Charles H. Fairall tried to convince the jury of Emma's innocence repeatedly. Fairall believed that the jury and Judge Nutter were biased.  In fact, it was remarked that the jury had been chosen from a specific area in Stockton, and were neighbors of Sheriff Sibley. This insinuation was used by the defense to claim that the jury was tainted all along, having made their own judgments against Emma before learning the facts of the case.

When it came to the forensics, the case became even more interesting. The prosecution's star witness, Professor Ray Ravonne Rodgers, a chemist from Cooper Medical School,  testified that McVicar had ten times the amount of morphine in his system to kill a normal man his size. He also stated that McVicar had not died prior to being placed in the trunk, but in fact that he died while in the trunk, but not by suffocation. 

Defense attorney Fairall, having the opportunity to cross examine the witness questioned how he knew that McVicar did not suffocate while in the trunk. Rodgers then explained to the jury that earlier that morning he had the District Attorney lock him in the very same trunk and laid in the very same position McVicar had been found in.  He lay in the trunk, locked inside for almost forty minutes without suffocating. 

He claimed that it was hot, but given McVicar's scenario, the blood from his nose that soaked the clothes would have made it even easier to breathe, rather than the dry clothes that were placed in the trunk during Rodger's experiment. 

In the question of the carbolic acid theory, Dr. E. Harbert claimed that alcohol had been discovered to be an antidote for carbolic acid. He stated that by diluting it with alcohol it would not cause the burns in the mouth or mucus membranes, throat or stomach as it normally would if ingested on its own, but it would most certainly cause death.  Dr. Harbert also went on to say in regards to whether or not McVicar's body was stuffed in the trunk before or after death, "sometimes very difficult to impossible to tell by a postmortem whether a contusion on a human body was made slightly before or shortly after death."

Dr. George S. Harkness even testified that it would be impossible to tell whether bruises could be caused shortly before or shortly after death and that bruises have been known to be made on a dead body even three hours after death. He also stated that the dark mucus matter that was found in McVicar's stomach had indicated that he had ingested some sort of irritant and that cyanide poisoning could have been a cause. He also pointed out that the odor of cyanide poisoning was not always present after a death of cyanide poisoning.

That statement must have struck a nerve in Emma's mother, because she dropped immediately, fainting in the courtroom and had to be carried out.  Emma began crying over her mother's collapse and smelling salts had to be administered to her in order to bring her to her senses so the trial could again proceed. The thought that Mary Ann Head grew faint and literally passed out after the mention of the cyanide got my attention.

Now remember, Emma's first husband died from suspicious circumstances but was later deemed natural causes. Poisoning was rumored though there was no way to prove later.  Then in 1904, this time Emma's step father James Head died from what they said was a cancer of the stomach, but it makes me wonder if it really was cancer at all?  Could Emma's mother have known something that everyone else didn't?

Emma was quite close with her mother and in her eyes she could do no wrong. It just seems odd to me that considering that time is history, Mary Ann just condoned or accepted her daughter’s lifestyle such as sleeping around, gallivanting between Amador County and San Francisco while being a bigamist.

Could she have also been aware of what happened to McVicar? Her mother must have had some knowledge of what was going on because Healy later admitted that he had been contracted to work on Mary Ann's  house in Jackson, performing plumbing work on more than one occasion. Healy also stated that he had been engaged to Emma at the time.

If this was true, Mary Ann was already well aware that her daughter was married to McVicar and LeDoux, yet Emma had time to promise to wed yet another man?  I am quite sure Mary Ann knew a lot more than she cared to admit.  Also, recall the reports that McVicar had been sick in San Francisco just two weeks prior to his death. This prior incident of possible poisoning had flagged my attention in the theory for him later being poisoned, again.

Remember, Emma had obtained a prescription for cyanide of potassium for her photography developing. It was quite possible that the mere mention of cyanide poisoning during the trial set the anxieties of Emma's mother in a whirlwind and thus she fainted out of sheer panic.  One note I would like to also make was that Mary Ann, Emma's mother, married quite as frequently as her daughter and in almost every case she outlived her husband, just as Emma did.  Even Emma's fifth husband died unexpectedly, but we will get into that further on in this chapter. Could this have been a family of black widows?

With all the witness testimony and various theories thrown every which way, the exact cause of death was never certain. Was he drugged, beaten over the head and then bled out unconscious until dead in the trunk? Or was he poisoned and dead long before he went into the trunk? Both sides disagreed at every turn. The prosecution wanted to prove that Emma poisoned McVicar and dumped him in the trunk to die slowly to cover up for her bigamous lifestyle. The defense wanted the jury to believe that McVicar was just a morphine addict who overdosed and that it really wasn't Emma's fault.  Eventually, the jury had to decide, not how McVicar died, but who caused his death.

It took only six hours of deliberations before the jury convicted Mrs. LeDoux of the murder of McVicar in the first degree. She would be the first woman sent
enced in a court of law to be executed in the State of California. The Amador Ledger dated August 10, 1906, published that Emma was sentenced to be hanged at San Quentin Prison on October 19th; however, that sentence was never carried out. Instead, she remained in the Stockton jail until 1909, while her attorney received an stay of execution for Emma upon his appeal for a new trial.

The defense attorney for Emma had filed an appeal to the Supreme Court requesting they reverse the original judgment of the court to save her from execution. They wanted the court to allow for a new trial based on the fact that they felt the previous trial was not "fair" but biased from the beginning. During the trial, Judge Nutter had denied the request to submit evidence that would help the defense. After weighing it all out, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Emma LeDoux's request because of the technical errors made by the State during the trial.

During the years that Emma was jailed, from the time of the trial all the way to 1909, she had become very ill. It was even published in many papers that they believed she was dying from consumption. Believing that she was going to die and that she could not physically or mentally handle the stress of another trial, Emma wrote a letter to her attorney advising him to notify the courts that she wished to plead guilty. The Amador Dispatch dated January 28, 1910, stated "Mrs. Emma LeDoux pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to the murder of Albert McVicar and was sentenced to life imprisonment in San Quentin."   Emma was then sent up to San Quentin, where she served 10 years before paroling in 1920. According to the book "Emma LeDoux And The Trunk Murder" by Madeline Church, she states that Emma filed an application for executive clemency on October 22, 1914. In the section that asked if she had any children, Emma had answered "yes."

In fact, the document shows that Emma stated that she had
"twin sons, 11 years old, living in Oregon." As Church states in her book, the calculations of the boys' birth dates would have meant that the children could have been either William S. Williams' sons or even McVicar's.  Nowhere in any research I have done have I found any other mention of the two sons that Emma claimed to have had. Emma never stated who the father of the children was, nor did this information come up when she filed for clemency again in 1917, and later again in 1921. 

Finding out that Emma quite possibly hid that she had twin sons around 1903, and the fact she kept secrets about what she was up to while living in houses of ill repute prior to McVicar's death, leads me to wonder what other secrets Emma kept from the world? Did she get pregnant by accident while prostituting? Were these children offspring of her marriage to Williams or her union with McVicar? Did she feel these children were getting in the way of her plans?

If she did have these babies as the record claims, why did she send them away to Oregon? Perhaps she knew friends or family up there that covered for her and took the children in without a word uttered all these years. Remember, that she lived in Oregon for about 10 years as a child. She could have known people up there. It does make you wonder.

Emma paroled on July 20, 1920, but continued to live the institutionalized life by violating the terms of her parole on more than one occasion. The first time she had been staying with her sister in Los Angeles. It was reported that she had been contributing to the delinquency of minors by providing alcohol to under age young men and being drunk in public. Her parole was revoked and she went right back to prison.

About three years later she was paroled again in March of 1924. This was around the time that she met and married Fred Crackbon, who was said to be a wealthy businessman from Napa. Unfortunately for Emma, Crackbon died from a severe stroke in 1929, leaving Emma a widow once more. With all the deaths of husbands, I often wonder if the stroke he suffered was really from a natural cause? Even Emma's mother also seemed to be outliving her husbands, having married a grand total of four times, while Emma a total of five. Coincidence?

If Emma did have anything to do with Crackbon's death, it didn't seem to help her. In fact, it put her in a worse position financially since Crackbon's children from a previous marriage inherited most of his property. His last surviving brother, Al Crackbon, kept what was left of the family inheritance leaving Emma broke. It wasn't long before Emma resorted back to her usual schemes of living a less than respectable life. Emma even started a “lonely hearts” dating service catering to forlorn men. Emma pretended to connect these men with female pen pals, although she was the only one writing to all of them. She successfully swindled money out of lonesome, love starved men until her parole officer finally cracked down on her and put her back in prison again on April 21, 1931. It just seemed as if Emma had neither a conscience nor a desire to change her ways. Eventually the State moved her from San Quentin to the women's prison facility where she stayed for the remainder of her life in Tehachapi, California.

On July 6, 1941, Emma LeDoux finally died, at the age of 68, from uremia due to ovarian cancer. She was buried in an unmarked grave in the Union Cemetery in Bakersfield. Albert N. McVicar's body was buried at the Highland Cemetery in Wichita, Kansas. As for her other former husband Eugene LeDoux, he died in 1943, and is buried at St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery in Sacramento, California.

During my writing of this book, I was fortunate to come into contact with one of Emma’s distant cousins, related through Emma’s maternal grandfather, Eli Gardner.  Through Ruth Blankenbaker’s insight on her family genealogy, tied with my research on Emma’s life, we were able to paint a better picture of Emma’s back story. I am forever grateful to Ruth, who is not only a wonderful supporter of my work, but someone I am proud to call a friend.

After discussing Emma’s life with Ruth, and the somewhat sketchy involvements that Emma’s mother was aware of, I have my suspicions about some of the women in Emma’s immediate family. Mary Ann Gardner, Emma’s mother, was married several times after Emma’s father, Thomas Cole left her. Her second husband, James Head, died of what was said to be stomach cancer and she inherited a huge estate.  Even Mary Ann’s father, Eli, whose whereabouts had disappeared from records, it turns out he had been institutionalized  at the Nevada County Hospital. His wife, Ellen, Emma’s grandmother, spent his fortune, eventually squandering it on Emma’s defense at her trial. 

Learning this information made me feel terrible for Eli. He came west as a young man with a dream during the Gold Rush. During a time in history where many came but few actually succeeded, Eli Gardner did.  Over the years he came to own a great deal of land, including a mine. In the end he was forgotten in a hospital for the remainder of his life, and we have no way of knowing on what grounds he was sent there. 

Ruth Blakenbaker made the discovery while working on her family genealogy“What’s interesting is that her mother, Ellen, says she is a widow in 1910,” Ruth points out, “but at that time Eli is clearly alive, because he didn’t die until 1912.”  Eli’s wife, Ellen, appeared to have gone on with her life, and remained living with Mary Ann until her death.  And what about Emma’s paternal grandfather, Calvin Cole? Was his death just an innocent mistake or was it the result of too many doses taken by accident? Or was he poisoned, too? It appeared that the only men in the family who were safe were the ones who ran off and divorced them.

Looking back at this entire investigation, I always find myself asking the same question, “why?” Was Emma’s insatiable greed for the insurance money what led her to kill? Or did she actually enjoy taking the life, or possibly lives, of her husband(s)? What about the twins that she allegedly gave birth to and only revealed her secret in one clemency request? What other secrets did she keep from the world?  I always come back with the same conclusion: we can only speculate but we will never know for certain.

In ending, the secrets or reasoning behind Emma's actions will never truly be revealed. The enigma of Emma LeDoux will forever remain just that, an enigma. When she died, she took all her secrets to the grave with her, leaving us scrambling to put the bits and pieces of the puzzle back together."---

To see the infamous murder trunk (which you can still see the bloodstains inside it) you can visit it at the Haggin Museum in Stockton, California. 

--Copyright, 2016 - Chapter 18, from the book "Stories of the Forgotten: Infamous, Famous & Unremembered," by J'aime Rubio (ISBN 13: 978-15239881175, ISBN 10: 1523981172)  

Emma LeDoux - The Black Widow of Amador County (Part Two)

"There were other witnesses who believed that Emma had previously attempted to kill McVicar on their trip to San Francisco at the Lexington Lodging House on Eddy Street.  A gentleman. Mr. E. Lord, who owned a hardware store in town claimed Emma had purchased a meat cleaver from his store around the same time period. After hearing of the murder in Stockton, he revealed his recollection of his encounter with Emma, as well as his suspicions.  Also, a Japanese servant, Harry Akazaki, who was attending the rooms at the hotel they had stayed in, had his own account to share with The San Francisco Call.

 McVicar and Mrs. LeDoux came here on Monday morning, March 12. I showed the couple to the room on the third floor. They seemed very affectionate. McVicar appeared to be in perfect health. She appeared to be trying to persuade McVicar to lie down when I left the room.  The next time I saw Mrs. LeDoux she was on the telephone in the office, talking, I think, to Dr. Dillon. Between 6 and 7 in the evening Dr. Dillon called to see McVicar, and remained in his room until about 7:20. When he left Mrs. LeDoux came with him to the head of the stairs…..McVicar and Mrs. LeDoux stayed, I think two days in the Lexington Hotel. After their departure I cleaned the room and found three small round bottles. They were about the size of a half-burned cigar. I threw them in the ash barrel and they were removed the following day. I do not know where they were bought. I think one of the bottles had a red label with crossbones, but I am not sure of this.”

Whatever may have transpired that evening in San Francisco, it seemed to be more than just a mere coincidence that only two weeks later McVicar would be found dead.

The Amador Dispatch also mentioned some events leading up to McVicar's death, before the couple ended up together in Stockton during his final days and hours.

From the Record’s correspondent at Jamestown this morning it was learned that the woman passed there as McVicar’s wife, but that she spent the most of her time elsewhere and only visited him at their home at the Rawhide mine occasionally. McVicar came to Jamestown about two years ago. He was a timber man at the Rawhide mine. He was a stead and taciturn and he saved his money. Two weeks ago his supposed wife told him that her mother, who lived near Jackson, was wealthy. That she had a large ranch and several teams engaged in hauling freight to the Kennedy Mine and that she wished McVicar to give up his job at the Rawhide and come to take charge of her ranch and teams.
McVicar did not take kindly to the plan so he told his friends, but to oblige his wife he consented. He sold off most of his effects at the time and ordered his furniture shipped to Sutter Creek in Amador County, but owing to the bridge over Woods Creek being out, the furniture got no further than the depot at Jamestown. McVicar quit his job last Tuesday. Wednesday he went to Jamestown and cashed a check for $70. The woman was with him. He is supposed to have had considerable money. They were in Jamestown until Friday morning when they took the train for Stockton. McVicar stated to a friend that he was going to Sutter Creek to take charge of his mother-in-law’s business. He appeared worried and depressed, but said little.”—Amador Dispatch, March 30, 1906 

The trip to Stockton had Emma and McVicar staying at the California Lodging House, room 97. On Friday afternoon, the couple visited Breuner's furniture store to purchase a large amount of goods. McVicar opened an account on credit and gave instructions to ship all the purchases to Jamestown.  They then spent the rest of the evening together, ate dinner and went to bed. It was in the early morning hours before McVicar had even eaten breakfast, that he met his demise.  

Emma was seen going to Rosenbaum's store to purchase a trunk, which she had delivered to the lodging house where she was staying. She also visited Breuner's furniture store again requesting that the purchases she and McVicar had made the day before be sent to the train station at Martell to be addressed to Jean LeDoux to which Emma claimed was her brother, instead of Jamestown as McVicar originally requested. She then went to H.G. Shaw Hardware where she purchased a rope from Ben Hart, who teased her and said, “Don’t hang yourself with it.” Where then Emma replied, “I’ll see to it that I do not.”

Emma came back to the lodging house and to her room, when the delivery man Charley Berry came to bring her the trunk. Berry claimed that she would only open the door wide enough to slide the trunk into the room and then she closed it. She told him to come back in an hour because she needed to pack her dishes in it in order to catch the 1:20 train to Jamestown. Berry told her she would never make it because it was already past noon, but she was very adamant she had time.  Berry came back within the hour but she was not ready so he took a lunch break. When he finally came back saw that Emma was ready, he noticed that the trunk was too heavy. He had to get another person to help him load the trunk to the truck in order to deliver it to the train depot.  Emma left with an unidentified man and the delivery men met them at the station. She told Berry that since they missed the earlier train, they would take the later train by way of Galt to reach their destination, although she and her "mystery man" secretly planned to board a different train all together.

According to The San Francisco Call, the daughter of Officer Van Landingham, who was staying in the room just across the hall from Emma, claimed that "she saw a smaller man that was not the deceased" who was coming and going from the room. A baggage handler also saw the same man at the train station, who seemed nervous. They described him as a small man with a black moustache.

At the train station, Emma wrapped the trunk with the rope she had purchased earlier and then gave instructions for the trunk to be shipped on the train to Jamestown; however, she failed to register the trunk properly. So when she and her new male companion boarded the train going westbound to the bay area, the trunk which was supposed to go to Jamestown, didn't go anywhere at all.

In fact, it sat there in the sun for hours before baggage handlers realized that it was abandoned. The trunk was then put aside. Eventually employees noticed a  foul smell which piqued their interest into finding out just what was causing the stench.  John Thompson, who was the baggage master, was notified by N. Vizelich, another employee who had noticed the odor coming from the trunk. Thompson quickly alerted the authorities. The first officer of the law on this case was Police Captain John Walker. After obtaining a warrant signed by District Attorney Norton, the trunk was then opened. The ghastly sight of Albert McVicar’s body was revealed to them and the hunt for his murderer began. 

McVicar's corpse was found curled up with wounds on his head and bruises. His nose had been completely fractured and his head was facing the bottom right hand side of the trunk while his body and arms and legs were opposite the top left side of the trunk diagonally. Blood that poured from his head and nose settled at the bottom corner of the trunk and covered over the clothing that had been packed with McVicar's body to keep the body from shifting around.

While the authorities were investigating the  scene where they discovered McVicar’s body, Emma had traveled to San Francisco to spend time with a man she knew by the name of Joseph Healy.  According to Healy’s statements later on, Emma had allegedly sent him a telegram that read, “Leave on the 2:15 train, meet me at the Royal House.”  The newspapers reported that Healy arrived at the Royal House located at 126 Ellis Street, but she was not there, so he went over to 5th and Market Street to the cigar shop.

Emma snuck up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder as he was putting a nickel in the machine on the counter. Emma told Healy that she wanted to bring him back his ring and “be on the square” with him, so they went over to a restaurant to talk. During their discussion Emma turned around and begged him to allow her to keep the ring, but offered him what it was worth in cash.
When they arrived, Emma broke down and told him that McVicar had died and that she couldn’t give him the ring as all her belongings were packed away. She also mentioned that McVicar had changed his life insurance policy and that his mother was the beneficiary. She claimed that she made an arrangement with McVicar’s brother to get $1,000 out of the money, while his mother would get $4,000.

Healy had recalled two weeks prior to this conversation, Emma had called him and told him that McVicar had not long to live. This was around the same time that he had fallen ill and Dr. Dillon had saved him. When Healy had inquired as to what McVicar was suffering from, Emma plainly suggested it was “miner’s consumption.” Healy had heard Emma use that excuse before, when describing how her other husband William S. Williams had died in Arizona. With all the clues right in front of him, Healy was either oblivious to the obvious or just incapable of telling the truth. He claimed that he left Emma at the Royal House once again and promised to return the next morning.
When he arrived the next day, he waited in the parlor and picked up the newspaper. To his shock he read the headlines about an unidentified body being found in the trunk at the train depot in Stockton. “Look at this,” he said. “Isn’t it horrible?”  To which Emma replied, “Isn’t it awful?” 
Healy said that she acted very calmly and unaffected by the newspaper headline. After that they left to the Presidio for lunch, eating cracked crab and soda water. After 1 p.m., Healy returned her to her room at the Royal Hotel, where she went upstairs and retrieved the ring and returned it to him. She also asked him toescort her to the train station to say goodbye. Healy admitted that he saw her off on the 3 p.m. Santa Fe train to Stockton, Sunday afternoon.
According to the San Francisco Call dated March 27, 1906, authorities assumed Joseph Healy was none other than Emma’s accomplice, “Mr. Miller.” However, based on Mr. Healy’s journal which provided a well-documented accounting of his whereabouts for the past year or so, and after learning that he was well spoken of in the community, having “a reputation for integrity, and good habits…a church member, never drinks and in his talk displays a rare innocence of heart,” they believed they were at a dead end.
According to Healy, he met Emma in January of 1904, where he quickly pursued in courting her. He was enamored by this strong, vivacious woman, as he was just a young man, a plumber by trade, still living with his parents and younger siblings at 1152 Florida Street, in San Francisco. Knowing she was out of his league, Healy still did not stop his attempts to woo Emma, even going so far as to purchase a diamond ring to propose marriage in April of 1904, to which Emma declined the offer. 
By June, she had changed her mind and the wedding date was set for April 25, 1905, despite the fact she was still married to McVicar!  Six days before the scheduled marriage date, Healy’s mother received an anonymous note which soiled Emma’s reputation, and persuaded Healy’s family to convince him to break it off with Emma. It was speculated that Emma herself wrote the letter, in hopes that she could get out of the engagement from Healy. On May 21, 1905, Healy had traveled all the way up to Emma’s parent’s home in Sutter Creek to demand his ring be returned, but using her power of persuasion, Emma was able to get Healy to leave, without the ring. He later heard about her marriage to McVicar and figured that she would leave him alone for good.
Back in Stockton, Sheriff Walter F. Sibley and Amador County Deputy Sheriff Henry E. Kay decided to  search for Emma and her unknown accomplice. Kay and Sibley decided to travel to Amador County see if Emma was hiding out at her mother's ranch which was located near Ridge Road in between Jackson and Sutter Creek. Unfortunately, the authorities could find no trace of her there, although news got out to Emma's fourth husband, Eugene LeDoux of what had taken place in Stockton.
After leaving San Francisco, Emma stopped at the Arlington Hotel in Antioch. It wasn’t long before Emma was approached by Constable John Whelehan, who had recognized her as a wanted woman. When Whelehan approached her, Emma stated, “I know what you want with me, and I will go with you.”  

According to the book, “Murder by the Bay,” by Charles F. Adams, among the items found on Emma when she was arrested were bottles of carbolic acid, morphine, cyanide of potassium, the meat cleaver she had purchased in San Francisco, a knife, and a small saw, along with her other personal effects. She was accompanied to the depot where she was sent back to Stockton to be placed in jail on the charge of murder. It was reported by the photographer taking her mug shots that Emma acted as if she was "modeling in a gallery" and not like a woman who had just been charged with the murder of her husband. She acted very nonchalant and unaffected, showing no emotion during the entire booking process.

Emma claimed that the murder was done by a man named Mr. Miller, and that he had known McVicar in Arizona. Her version of the story states that Miller ran into the couple in Stockton and came back to the lodging house with them after they had went out to dinner together. She claimed that the two men were drinking and talking about gambling before they started an argument. This was prior to her leaving the room. When she came back, she discovered that McVicar was very ill and vomiting when he suddenly fell over dead on the bed. She claimed Miller threatened to kill her unless she went along with "disposing" of McVicar's body for him. She was adamant that she had nothing to do with the murder except for the placing of his body in the trunk, claiming that Miller had threatened her with a pistol and a knife, swearing he would kill her if she did not do as he said.

When District Attorney Norton mentioned that there was a good amount of blood found inside the trunk, Emma’s response was, “Is that so? Why I don’t see how that could be.”  It appeared that either Emma didn’t know that McVicar was still alive when she put him in the trunk, or she was just playing coy. Interestingly, when asked if Mr. Miller was really Joseph Healy, Emma became irate, yelling, “I don’t want you to get these men mixed, Miller and Healy are entirely different men!”  

Upon his arrest, Joe Healy originally failed to give complete information in regards to his relationship with Emma, but later opened up to the police that Emma sent him a telegram to meet him that Saturday at the Royal House lodge on Ellis Street in San Francisco. He claimed when he arrived she wasn't there. He also
admitted that Emma told him she needed his help in shipping McVicar's body back to his brother in Colorado, but claimed to have no part in the murder. 

The San Francisco Call, dated March 28, 1906, quotes Joe Healy’s statement:  "I had told all that I knew about the woman already. No, I did not see her when I was in Stockton and I don't want to see her again. I am a pretty lucky fellow. Supposing that I had married her, and had my life insured. I can't make the woman out. She liked me, I think. But I guess she would have done with me what she did with the others. I am an awfully lucky man."

Interesting to note, Emma claimed that this mysterious Mr. Miller, whom she adamantly denied was Mr. Healy, forced her to help him dispose of McVicar’s body at the train depot. Witnesses saw a man purchase two tickets for the train headed to Jackson, yet Emma and Mr. Miller jumped on the train headed westbound to the bay area. As Emma stated to the authorities, although she and Mr. Miller were on the same train, they sat separately until reaching Niles. It was at Niles when they changed seats and sat together the rest of the trip. If she had really been forced to cover up a murder, and had the ability to sit alone from Stockton all the way to Niles, she would have had numerous opportunities to flee and alert the authorities.

Not only that, but according to Detective Ed Gibson from San Francisco, Healy had taken the train with Emma back towards Stockton but got off at Point Richmond. In later statements given by Emma to the police, she claimed that Mr. Miller remained with her in San Francisco and departed at Point Richmond. It appeared that Emma’s story about a  mysterious Mr. Miller just didn’t add up, and that Healy was her accomplice."--


--Copyright, 2016 - Chapter 18, from the book "Stories of the Forgotten: Infamous, Famous & Unremembered," by J'aime Rubio (ISBN 13: 978-15239881175, ISBN 10: 1523981172)  

Emma LeDoux - The Black Widow of Amador County (Part One)

"The Ione Public Cemetery sits on a hillside along the outskirts of town. It’s unadorned and barren appearance gives off a feeling of loneliness as you wander the tiers of concrete blocks and individual plots. The area itself is so dry that even the grave markers look parched.  Among the monuments stands a weather beaten obelisk. Cracks run through the stone, like the lines of a dried up tributary that once made its way to the mouth of a body of water.  This monument belongs to Calvin Cole.  

Calvin Cole’s death on March 26, 1866, is where this story truly begins. I believe that this one death may have actually inspired events that were to take place nearly four decades later.  You see, Mr. Cole’s death was considered somewhat suspicious given the circumstances. According to an article in the Amador Dispatch newspaper in 1866, it states that Mr. Cole died “from the effects of some irritation of the brain and stomach brought on by some unknown cause to them.”

During the inquest of his death, the doctor stated that Mr. Cole’s “stomach was diseased and there was an adhesive membrane of the skull that was not natural.”   The article also went on to report the state of Mr. Cole’s remains upon examination. “He found the condition of the stomach caused by some artificial irritation; He presumed the contents of the stomach would be analyzed. He did not see the medicine that had been taken, did not notice anything about the brain that would cause instant death; it was his opinion that water was in the stomach that caused the death; whether the results were the effects of two agents or one, he didn’t think it possible to tell.”

Mr. Cole’s wife stated at the inquest, that around 1:30 p.m., her husband came in and requested to eat his supper in order to hurry up and get his horse ready to go after the cows. She claimed that he ate his supper, went to get the cows and came home around sunset. Then they both went to milk the cows together, and when Mr. Cole walked out to the gate, he was complaining of feeling ill.  After attempting to go to bed, he started vomiting and mentioned that he was afraid that he may have taken too much of the medicine prescribed by his doctor for his health. He only lived another thirty minutes or so, and then passed away.

So could Sarah Cole have poisoned her husband? Well, it looks like a possibility. But what did she have to gain from it? Mr. Cole died with very little to his name besides $100.00 listed as his personal property. In fact, it was Mrs. Cole who had more money. She had $2,000.00 in personal property and $5,000.00 in real estate, so the motive for money is out the window.  But the general cause of his death still seemed suspicious, especially since the stomach contents were supposed to be analyzed but never were. Maybe it was all an accident, and Mr. Cole just took too much of his medicines after all. But the question still lingers, was it really an accident?

You might ask, where does Mr. Cole fit in with the story of Emma LeDoux?  Mr. Calvin Cole was none other than Emma LeDoux’s paternal grandfather.  It is safe to assume the probability that years later, the sheer mention or rumor of suspicion about her grandfather’s death might have influenced or inspired her. It seems she was quite callous and calculating, having personality traits that could make it all the easier for her to dispose of an unwanted spouse in such a way.  Of course, that’s just conjecture. With this chapter, you will have a chance to go over the details of Emma’s story from the beginning, drawing your own conclusions about just what may have  prompted the inception of the Black Widow of Amador County.

In March of 1906, after drugging Albert McVicar in a Stockton hotel room, Emma LeDoux then stuffed him into a trunk and left it on the platform at the Southern Pacific Railroad Depot in Stockton, California.  The details of his death, witness statements and reports being published about the trial, exploded into the papers daily as one of the biggest media sensations of the time. The only event that took precedence over this case was the Great Earthquake of 1906, which actually put Emma’s trial on hold.

When I was researching Emma’s story, it was clear that not much was documented about Emma's life and experiences prior to the murder. Although the story that catapulted Emma into infamy took place in 1906, I felt the need to give Emma a back story before proceeding with the ghastly details of the murder.

Emma LeDoux was born Emma Theresa Cole on September 10, 1875. She was born in the small town of Pine Grove, east of Jackson in Amador County, California. Her parents were Thomas Jefferson Cole from Ione, California, and Mary Ann Gardner. According to research by Emma’s distant cousin Ruth Blankenbaker,  Emma’s maternal grandfather Eli owned a mine off of Clinton Road, near Jackson.  Family genealogy records show that by the time Emma was about three years old, her family moved to Oregon for about ten years until returning back to Amador County in 1888.

By the age of 16, Emma was married to Charles Barrett, 22, of Pine Grove.  Emma’s mother, Mary Ann Cole had given consent for Emma to wed Charles in an affidavit signed on February, 2, 1892. Only eight days later, on February 10, 1892, Emma’s father, Thomas Jefferson Cole left his wife. 

Emma’s first marriage took place on March 2, 1892, as there was a 30 day waiting period prior to marrying at the time. Unfortunately, the marriage didn’t last very long, and rumors spread quickly that meddling parents were the cause of their early marital ruin. After four years of marriage, Charles left Emma on May 1, 1895. In an interview published by the Amador Dispatch, a man by the name of Keagle, who ran the Yosemite Bar in Stockton, had once owned a saloon on the corner of California and Main Streets in Jackson. This is near the place where the present Hein & Company book store is located. Keagle had his own recollections that he shared with the press. “I used to run a saloon up in Jackson and it was there that I became acquainted with her about sixteen years ago. Her family lives a few miles above Jackson, but I don’t know what the family name is. Shortly after I went up there she married a young rancher by the name of Barrett, living near Pine Grove. She did not live with him very long, however. They had some kind of split up and he got a divorce from her upon the ground of infidelity, I believe.”— Amador Dispatch, March 30, 1906.

Friends of both Emma and Charles later claimed that their separation and divorce may have been due to Emma having allegedly taken part in “extra marital" relations. By January 5, 1898, after the divorce case had been held up for nearly three years, the judge granted the divorce decree.

Next, Emma married her second husband, William Stanley Williams. The 1900 Census in Globe, Arizona, shows William and Emma living together, having been married for two years. This means they were married around 1898, which was around the same time her divorce from Barrett was finalized. William’s occupation was listed as a miner and that he was born in England.  Unfortunately,  Williams died in Cochise County, Arizona, on June 20, 1902, under suspicious circumstances. He was buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Bisbee, AZ.
"According to information from Bisbee, William S. Williams, A.N. McVicar and the woman accused of McVicar's murder at Stockton were quite well known in Bisbee prior to and during 1902. Williams died under suspicious circumstances being attended by Dr. C.L. Edmundson at the last. Poisoning by nitric acid was suspected, but it was later decided that Williams had died of natural causes, presumably heart failure. He was quite heavily insured. The widow secured between $4000 and $5000, $2000 of it being from the Ancient Order of United Workmen and the balance being the old line insurance.
Williams was a member of the Miners Union in Globe and that organization forwarded $75 to the widow for burial expenses. The fraternal insurance was paid to her by Lewis Hunt, record of the Workmen. The money was paid to the woman under the name of Mrs. Emma T. Williams. Williams lived in Bisbee for five or six years, being known as a steady, reliable and straightforward man. Long prior to the death of Williams, according to report, he had occasion to take his wife to task for her familiar associations with McVicar, whose attentions gave him much concern. Undoubtedly, this fact had something to do with the doubts that arose at the time , concerning the “regularity” of William’s death, but they were not strong enough to occasion further investigation after the opinion that death occurred from heart failure was rendered. McVicar renewed his attentions to the widow, and in the latter part of 1902, they were married.” - San Francisco Call, March 30, 1906

Although the newspapers of the time mentioned that they suspected that Williams had been poisoned by nitric acid. Then later, they reported it as natural and “more than likely heart failure.”  The official death record by Dr. Edmundson states that the cause of death was “gastroenteritis,” which is an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.  The average person today would associate the term “gastroenteritis” with bacterial or viral infections, or even food poisoning, but medical case studies have proven that “gastroenteritis” can be caused by a number of things, including certain medicines and the overuse of alcohol.
Williams’ body hadn't even been in the ground three months before Emma married her third husband. Albert Newton McVicar was born in Canada in 1869. When the McVicar family came to the U.S., they settled in Wichita, Kansas. According to the San Francisco Call, dated April 1, 1906, Albert’s brother, J.E. McVicar recalled that Albert had left Kansas and went westward to Cripple Creek, Colorado, when the area was booming.

He took a job with Wells Fargo and quickly was promoted as an agent. By 1901, he had quit Wells Fargo and relocated to Globe, Arizona, where he met Emma.  The two wed on September 1, 1902 in Cochise, Arizona.  What I found very interesting is that upon their marriage, Emma moved back to California traveling between her mother and step-father James Head's ranch in Jackson and the Tenderloin District in San Francisco. At the time, that area was full of theatres, hotels and was also well known for its active nightlife, including prostitution. So what in the world was a married woman doing there, and so far away from her newly wedded husband, Mr. McVicar?     
So by this time, Emma has been married a total of three times, and it didn't seem she planned on stopping there. Although she was married to McVicar, Emma seemed to enjoy her freedom gallivanting from San Francisco to Amador County, while McVicar was somewhere else. Emma claimed she managed to support herself by means of working as a seamstress and by the help of her "gentlemen friends."  I suspect that she secretly also dabbled in the oldest profession, more than likely during her visits to San Francisco.            

By August 26, 1905, Emma became a bigamist by marrying her fourth husband, Eugene “Jean” LeDoux of Sutter Creek.  Mr. LeDoux grew up with Emma in Amador County, his family’s ranch being next door to Emma’s step-father’s property. From the reports, LeDoux was very quiet prior to and during the ceremony which was performed at the County Clerk's office in Woodland, California.  The two were wed by Judge Lampton, in the presence of Byron Hillhouse and Constable Parker.

The couple registered at the Byrns Hotel under the names Mrs. E. Williams and Mr. Jean LeDoux, of Sacramento; however, Judge Lampton’s recollection was that Emma had given her residence as Jackson on the marriage license, while LeDoux gave his as Sutter Creek. The Judge also mentioned that the ceremony itself was odd, admitting that LeDoux didn’t act like the normal husband who was happy to wed his bride, and even going so far as to refuse kissing upon completion of the vows.  As fast as the ceremony came and went, so did the couple, exiting town as fast as possible. Instead of returning to the hotel, the pair walked straight to the train station over an hour early to await their ride to an uneventful honeymoon elsewhere.
LeDoux and McVicar knew nothing about the other during this time. I am not sure how Emma managed to keep McVicar a secret. Probably the fact that he had been absent most of the marriage aided in Emma's deception and allowed her the ability to act as if she was legally free to wed LeDoux. By the time that Emma had married LeDoux, McVicar had already moved to California, and was actually just about 46 miles south in Jamestown, working at the Rawhide Mine as a timber man. During this period, Emma would frequently spend time with both husbands for the next seven months without either one learning of the others existence.  No one could have imagined what was going to take place next.

According to the San Francisco Call dated March 30, 1906, it states that Dr. John Dillon of San Francisco claimed that on the night of March the 12th, 1906, that Emma LeDoux, a patient he knew for years,  called him to the residence at Lexington House, 212 Eddy Street, Room 21, to treat her husband McVicar. Emma stated that she needed the doctor's help because she believed he had been poisoned.  Dr. Dillon suspected arsenic or morphine poisoning and immediately took action by "washing out" his stomach and giving McVicar a light sleeping potion.

After McVicar recovered enough to speak to the doctor, he was questioned about what he had taken that made him so violently ill. McVicar answered, "I do not know. She said it was the clams and beer we had a short time ago."  It was then that Emma seemed "startled and perplexed" and claimed that she forgot to tell the doctor that they had eaten some bad clams and that must have been the cause. The doctor was a bit skeptical being that Emma had consumed the very same clams and beer as McVicar and yet didn't appear to be ill at all.  The doctor waited until McVicar was resting peacefully before leaving and came back the next day to make sure he was recovering completely.

During the visit Emma approached the doctor for a prescription to purchase some cyanide of pot-assium, knowing the doctor could prescribe it while they were there.  The newspapers state that upon Emma's request, Dr. Dillon jokingly replied, "You're not going to give him anymore, are you?"  

Emma claimed that her need for the cyanide was for her hobby of photography and that she needed it to develop her photographs. Her big excuse was that she could procure it in Stockton, but since she had taken photos right there in San Francisco, she didn’t want to wait to develop them. The doctor agreed. Emma and the doctor went on to the Harrison drug store where he then went to the back to pick up the bottle of cyanide; however, he noticed that it was empty. The clerk working at the front claimed he was writing out a requisition for new inventory of the poison. The fact that the pharmacy didn't have the cyanide Emma wanted, made her somewhat disappointed, the doctor claimed. To remedy the situation, the doctor then wrote her a prescription so that she could pick up some at the nearby pharmacy on Ellis Street.
As if the cyanide wasn't asking too much, Emma then turned on the water works and told the doctor that the incident earlier had really stressed her out and caused her too much excitement. She then confessed that she had previous addictions to morphine, and that she needed some badly. Believing that she was professing the truth, the doctor gave her one dram, or sixty grains of morphine and warned her of the risks of the drug.  He didn't think too much more of the matter until learning of McVicar's death two weeks later in the newspaper. It was then that he was interviewed and stated, "I am satisfied that a previous attempt was made to murder McVicar by poison, and that I saved his life.”  ----
--Copyright, 2016 - Chapter 18, from the book "Stories of the Forgotten: Infamous, Famous & Unremembered," by J'aime Rubio (ISBN 13: 978-15239881175, ISBN 10: 1523981172)  

Emma LeDoux - The Black Widow of Amador County (Part Three)

" At the morgue McVicar’s brother, J.E. McVicar, had arrived from Cripple Creek, Colorado, to identify the body. During an interview wi...